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Browns owner Jimmy Haslam assures Pilot Flying J problems won't be a distraction

Jul 25, 2013 -- 7:58pm

By Tony Grossi |



Extra Points …

Observations, notes, quotes and some facts on the first day of Browns training camp …

* Jimmy Haslam faced the media head-on at the start of practice and was typically forceful in asserting the federal investigation of his Pilot Flying J will have no impact on the present or future of the Browns.

“We’re committed to owning the Browns for a long period of time,” he said. “I understand in Cleveland there’s a great deal of uncertainty because of past history, but the fans should not worry. Our family’s going to own this asset for a long, long time. We feel it a privilege to own the Cleveland Browns with all the history and tradition.

“There’s absolutely no worry about cash flow. If there was, we wouldn’t be doing the ($5 million in renovations) we did in Berea, wouldn’t have signed the free agents, wouldn’t be talking about ($100 million in upgrades) at the stadium. We’re looking at this as a long-term vision.”

Haslam, whose purchase of the Browns was reported on the first day of last year’s camp, insists the troubles engulfing his Pilot Flying J will not distract his football team.

“I apologize for the negative attention this has brought to Cleveland, the Browns and the NFL,” he said. “I’m going to stay very focused on two things. One, making sure we correct the activites at Pilot Flying J that led to some of the accusations that have been made. But secondly and most importantly, to do the things we talked of in Cleveland. There’s no distraction in the bldg.. Everyone’s entirely focused on winning games and making the fans have a great experience.”

* Rob Chudzinski seemed to have more fun than anybody on his first day of camp as a head coach. On a few occasions, the Toledo, OH-native got the crowd going by waving his arms above his head. He pumped his fist to the crowd with a big smile walking off the field after practice. “A great first day,” said the coach.

* Wide receiver Josh Gordon fell awkwardly trying to make a high catch and limped off the field with about 30 minutes to go in the practice. He did not return. Chudzinski said afterward Gordon suffered a cramp. Gordon did not receive much attention from trainers and watched the remainder of practice off to the side. He made a few good catches prior to the injury.

* The top three receivers all have new numbers. Gordon ditched No. 13 for No. 12, which was his number at Baylor. Davone Bess traded numbers with Greg Little. Bess now wears No. 15 and Little No. 18. Bess wanted No. 15, which he wore with the Miami Dolphins. Neither Bess nor Little would say if money was exchanged in the transaction. “Undisclosed,” said Bess.

* The first skirmish of camp involved, of all people, Joe Thomas. After a pass, there was some pushing and shoving involving defensive end Brian Sanford and some offensive players. Thomas dived in and emerged from the bottom of a pileup. No punches thrown or landed, but it was unusual to see a pileup on a day players didn’t wear full gear. “Joe was in there. I don’t know if he started on top and ended up on the bottom,” Chudzinski said. “I was in the melee there, too. It’s training camp. Energy’s high. I’m really pleased with the tempo of practice.” Brandon Weeden said, “We don’t even have pads on yet and guys are competing, which is what you want to see. A little bit of that is good. If it gets out of control, I don’t think Chud will like that.”

* Phil Taylor was the biggest name who didn’t participate. Taylor watched from the side with a rubber sleeve on his left calf. Chudzinski said Taylor suffered a calf strain about a week and a half ago and is day to day. “I’m not concerned about that,” the coach said. John Hughes played in Taylor’s nose tackle spot. Tight end Kellen Davis (knee sprain), receiver David Nelson (knee) and offensive tackle Chris Faulk (knee) did not practice.

* Running back Trent Richardson was full go and all smiles afterwards.

* Buster Skrine was at cornerback and Tashaun Gipson at free safety with the first-team defense. But Chris Owens staked his claim to the cornerback competition with a good first day, nailing an interception of a pass for Gordon and a breakup of one for Travis Benjamin.

* On the first day, quarterback Brandon Weeden had two option runs.

* Official attendance figure: 2,692.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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